(Inevitable spoilers ahead for Book of Boba Fett, Peacemaker, and The Suicide Squad, but I’ll try to keep it minimal)
Two shows hit streaming in late 2021/early 2022. Both took (mostly) the weekly release strategy. Both–no, no, I did this “How many parallels can I find” schtick with Supergirl and Lucifer and I absolutely stretched it a little… and the shows are in the title… okay so let’s just get started.
A week before Christmas 2020, Disney+ wrapped their second season of hit series The Mandalorian by teasing that instead of/prior to season three, they were launching a new show, The Book of Boba Fett, after having Temura Morrison turn up throughout the season as a surprisingly not eaten-by-Sarlacc Boba Fett. Because that’s how season two of Mandalorian rolled: Din Djarin/Mando and his little buddy Baby Yoda/Grogu going from recognizable character* to recognizable character picking up sub-quests until he was ready to form a squad to take on Moff Gideon.
*I mean… recognizable if you watched Clone Wars and/or Rebels.
Boba Fett’s been a fan favourite character for decades, because… um… let me check my notes… because he had a sweet action figure back in the 80s. He was such a favourite that a Boba Fett movie was one of the earliest movies Disney was pitching when they bought Lucasfilm. Then Solo disappointed at the box office and the whole “cinematic Star War every year” plan got rethought. But despite basically making a better version of a Boba Fett show with Mandalorian (a new character having new adventures in basically the same badass suit), they circled back to it with Book of Boba Fett. Seven episodes devoted to everyone’s favourite featured extra from The Empire Strikes Back, spinning off from The Mandalorian and moving into the palace from the opening sequence of Return of the Jedi to become a crime boss. I certainly see the logic behind this series. It’s extremely cynical logic, based on how to exploit an IP more than “we have a story that needs telling,” but that seems to be Star Wars these days. Thanks again for that to the toxic wastes of time that pitched a tantrum after Last Jedi and scared Disney away from trying to innovate.
End result… it’s fine. Basically mostly fine. Some issues we’ll be unpacking later, as you must have suspected. But let’s rip off this Band-Aid… I don’t know why it’s called The Book of Boba Fett. There is no book. No implications of a book. Could have been The Ballad of Boba Fett, all I’m saying.
And in this corner…
As the Snyder Cult loved to complain, nobody really asked for Peacemaker. But how could we. It’s a show spinning off a character from a movie that, when the show was announced, hadn’t come out yet. Mad genius James Gunn, stuck in the same quarantine and dealing with the same anxiety as the rest of us, hammered out an eight-episode series for one of the characters of his upcoming The Suicide Squad. Actually three characters, one of the squad and two members of their tech support team. Not the ones cued up to be audience favourites. Not Harley Quinn or Bloodsport or Ratcatcher II. John Cena’s peace-loving mass-murderer, Peacemaker.
And yeah, Cena’s good in The Suicide Squad, he’s a fun character, right up until the moment he isn’t, at which point he transitions to being one of the most hateable characters in the movie. Not the most. That’s General Suarez. Maybe Presidente Luna. Actually Amanda Waller’s not here to make friends either, and the Thinker… okay he’s somewhere between third and fifth most– Blackguard, right, screw that guy– third and sixth?
Anyway he wasn’t exactly primed to be the first cast member we’d want to see next, but Gunn clearly had an idea he liked, and set about to take this character we’d been booing and dig into why he is like he is, what made him into this, and make us feel bad for him. Make us like him, root for him, want him to succeed… partially because if he doesn’t succeed, humanity is pretty screwed.
All this with Gunn’s blend of laugh-out-loud humour, fun characters with strong arcs, and some truly, unexpectedly, gutting emotional moments. Peacemaker started from nearly the opposite position as Book of Boba Fett, but found everything the other show was lacking.
So I wanna do a compare/contrast: look at the reasons that Book of Boba Fett was basically okay but hard to recommend, and what Peacemaker did differently to wind up an incredible ride and the most-watched streaming show in the world while Boba Fett was still happening.